Search Engine Optimisation
Mark Davis, head of SEO HomeAway Europe
Mark Davis, Head of SEO, HomeAway Europe – Since 2009 Mark has been the head of SEO for the HomeAway websites in Europe. For the 2 years prior to joining HomeAway, he was in charge of SEO for eBay UK, and prior to that, worked for 6 years as the head of the Cisco Systems search engine program. He has worked in database development and internet marketing for the last 20 years after graduating from the University of California with a degree in toxicology & analytical chemistry.
Here are the topics we are going to cover:
1. What is SEO and why is it important?
2. How do search engines work?
3. What can owners do to improve SEO?
4. What is HomeAway doing to improve SEO?
This presentation uses examples from Google due to high market share in UK, but concepts generally apply to the other major search engines. Furthermore, this presentation uses examples from HomeAway.co.uk, but the advice and techniques apply to all web pages, including adverts on Owners Direct.
The anatomy of a search results page
Orange: Search box where the keywords are entered
Red: Paid search section (PPC) where advertisers are paying every time someone clicks on a result. We won’t be addressing this section.
Green: A natural search result which is what SEO is focuses on. SEO is the practice of optimising your web page or website to get the highest ranking possible and greatest visibility in the natural search results.
Why is SEO important?
Over 20 million people use search engines in the UK each month.
They make an average of 50 searches per month.
70% of travel was booked online in 2008…up from 53% in 2007*
80% of commercial clicks are on natural search results.
The HomeAway sites have a strong presence in search. Age, reputation, popularity, and vast amount of content are contributors.
The HomeAway sites all around the world are a collection of the pioneers of the online holiday rental business. The search engines give some preference to sites that have withstood the test of time, since it equates to trust and a better user experience. The HomeAway sites also have a large amount of content across a wide range of destinations, and search engines value that breadth and depth
How do search engines work?
The Web is quite literally an intricate network of pages and links.
The search engines try to imitate humans in understanding both:
Content of pages (text, images, video…)
Relationships between pages (links, please see the example below)
You control the most important part, the content!
What can owners do to improve SEO on their adverts?
Tips for writing great copy for the search engines:
Know your guests - look at the language they use to describe your property, this is what they will type into a search engine
Use a variety of words within the text (for example accommodation, flat, apartment and maisonette could all be entered as a search engine query) and try to repeat important words at least twice in the text.
Accurate, descriptive, relevant
Avoid flowery, subjective language (stunning, enchanting, spectacular)
Use all space provided
Most important words first
1. The Page Title
When you write your advert be sure to pay particular attention to the advert headline, as HomeAway.co.uk and OwnersDirect.co.uk use this as the page title for your property page and the search engine will use this if it lists your property in the search results. Use plenty of keywords that are relevant to your property because the page title is very important for attracting search engines.
Think about how guests would search. This is headline uses compelling descriptive language, but would anyone type this into a search engine?
2. The property description
Variations of relevant keywords (singular, plural, verb tense, popular synonyms, etc.). Variations of relevant words will extend your reach and better guarantee that your property will be returned for a wider variety of searches in Google. Use all space available without cutting corners. Due to the character limits of the description fields some owners try to conserve space by using abbreviations.
Use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. Be careful of typos, unless you know that your property location is very commonly misspelled. Include references to relevant activities, features, attractions. Reviews are an important source of content that is written using the vocabulary of travellers. It expands your keyword reach. Our research proves that the properties with more content get more traffic from search engines.
Case Study: How could this owner have optimised their advert for the search engines?
1. Used all the space available - the content is very brief
2. Used descriptive words including the names of the attractions e.g. close to Disneyland and Universal Studios*
3. Be more specific, "much, much more" means nothing to a search engine
4. Keyword research
*Please note: We recommend you use the property description to describe the features of your holiday home, and the location description to describe your location and proximity to attractions.
Know your guests: listen to vocabulary used in email, reviews and phone conversations. Listen for recurring patterns in the words that travellers use. It may be different than how you would speak about your property or location.
Google Suggest (the Google Keyword Tool) can help you if you’re looking for keyword ideas:
Google Keyword Tool
The HomeAway Translation Service
The HomeAway Translation Service is due to launch this coming April. The service implements the Google Translate API to translate the language portion of HomeAway.co.uk property adverts into multiple languages, to be published in their corresponding listings on other HomeAway websites.
This means that your adverts on our international sites will have their Advert Headlines, Property Descriptions, Location Descriptions and other text based areas translated into the native language, providing extra keywords for the search engines to pick up.
Pilot study found that translated property descriptions get about 15% more natural search traffic than basic listings. The service provides automated translations across the HomeAway network.
Optimising your property advert for translation:
The HomeAway Translation service is an automated translation service. It is important to write in a straightforward way, so your sentences translate better.
Be careful of misspellings and improper grammar
Avoid trying to conserve characters by eliminating spaces between sentences
Avoid using slang, colloquialisms, ALL CAPS, abbreviations and acronyms
Use Title Case for proper nouns: names of unique individuals, events, and places
Avoid using long run-on sentences. It can be difficult for the translation service to understand context
For more information please see: Tips for making your advert search engine friendly
Copyright HomeAway.co.uk, March 2011
- Checklist for turning your second home into a holiday rental
- Holiday home equipment & facilities checklist
- Cleaning & maintenance checklist
- Holiday home advertising checklist
- Sample rental contract & invoice
- Sample security deposit refund & withholding letters
- Sample guest enquiry responses
- Sample directions & pre-arrival information
- Sample guest feedback survey
- Sample welcome letters & arrival / departure information